“It’s time to open Texas 100 percent.”
That was the statement made by Gov. Greg Abbott during an address to the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce on Tuesday, nearly one year since the governor issued his original state of emergency over the Chinese coronavirus.
Since then, he’s signed a slew of unilateral executive orders in response to the virus, shutting down some businesses and instituting capacity restrictions on others, as well as a statewide mask mandate.
Now, a new executive order issued by Abbott will put an end to most of those restrictions, although local officials will still get a say.
Effective Wednesday, March 10, the majority of Abbott’s executive orders relating to the coronavirus will be rescinded, including the statewide mask mandate. However, Abbott’s order still “strongly encourages” individuals to wear masks and notes that nothing in the order prohibits individual businesses from requiring employees and customers to wear face masks.
If the hospitalization rate—the percentage of COVID-positive patients as a percentage of total hospitalized patients—in any of the state’s 22 Trauma Service Regions is higher than 15 percent for more than seven days, the restrictions can come back into place. Abbott’s order allows county judges in those “areas with high hospitalizations” to wind back occupancy limits in businesses to 50 percent.
Those officials will not be allowed to imprison those who violate their orders, however, and no jurisdiction will be able to impose a penalty for failure to wear a face mask.
Abbott’s announcement comes more than five months after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis removed all statewide coronavirus mandates in his state.
Abbott was joined by State Rep. Dustin Burrows (R–Lubbock), who he applauded for his work on House Bill 3, a controversial proposal that would strengthen the governor’s executive authority, granting him even greater unilateral authority during a pandemic.